The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a plan to pair public health nurses with social workers to investigate allegations of abuse of children under 2 years old.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl championed the change, recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, saying the new teams will be better able to spot signs of abuse or neglect and protect at-risk youngsters.
“The protection and well-being of children in our care should always be top priority,” Ridley-Thomas said. “All children in L.A. County deserve a fighting change. They should be able to grow up healthy, free from abuse and in nurturing environments.”
Nurses may also be able to identify some problems as purely medical, rather than symptoms of abuse, so that children are not unnecessarily separated from their families.
The program will be implemented in phases and first rolled out at the Martin Luther King Jr. clinic, or medical hub, which serves children in Compton and along the Vermont Avenue corridor. That hub and the one serving the Antelope Valley have the highest number of emergency room referrals for abuse.
Nearly 17,000 children under the age of 2 were referred for emergency care by the Department of Children and Family Services to the six medical hubs during the 12 months ended June 30, 2014.
Under the new protocol, children may be evaluated by a nurse in their own home. They will be referred for medical screening at one of the six hubs if a public health nurse decides that follow-up is medically necessary. Mental health services will also be co-located at the hubs.
The board is continuing its search for someone to lead the Office of Child Protection. In the meantime, Kuehl joined Supervisor Hilda Solis to propose that staffers draft a mission statement that emphasizes the county’s commitment to keeping children safe.
A draft is expected back in 30 days.
— City News Service